This story is one I have shared through Propelle, but have never talked about it on my own sites. I was reminded of it again today, following a conversation I had after a speaking engagement this morning. She told me how much she had enjoyed the training and how impressed she was with my ability to speak in front of a crowd.
Whenever someone makes a comment like this to me, it always reminds me of my not-so- loving relationship with public speaking.
10 years ago, I took a job that moved my husband and I to Pittsburgh. When interviewing, I was told that public speaking was a very small portion of the job. I squirmed in my seat at the very mention of the phrase public speaking, but figured what the hell. We really wanted to be back in the ‘Burgh, so the discomfort would be worth it.
A few months in, I was sent to a local school district to give my very first presentation. I was told what time to be there and where to find my contact. Armed with my note cards, I got in the car and drove to my destination.
I stopped in the bathroom when I got there to (hyperventilate and) calm my nerves. When I felt steady enough, I stepped out and found my way to the meeting spot. My contact greeted me and gave me some background information about the district.
I was taken to the High School auditorium, where 350+ teachers, aides, and other school employees were listening to speaker after speaker talk about their benefits.
It took all of 2 seconds to realize that I was in over my head.
They brought me to the stage (THE STAGE), handed me a microphone, and gave me the thumbs up to begin.
Like a fucking dear in headlights, I froze.
I wasn’t sure whether I was going to pass out or throw up. Or both.
When I finally opened my mouth, I squeaked. So I stared down at the note cards in my hands (which were trembling like an 8 on the Richter Scale) and read without looking up. I’m pretty sure I could have rivaled the Micro Machine Man with how fast I was talking.
The teachers — who are notoriously the worst audience to speak in front of — were rapt with attention for fear that any movement would cause me to burst into tears.
When I stepped off the stage, two kind women came up to me, patted me on the arm, and told me that I did a great job. (Out of pity, of course. Because even I knew that I was the worst speaker of the day … maybe even the year.)
But here’s the thing: I faced my absolute biggest fear and I did it.
Even though I was terrified.
Even though every cell in my body was screaming for me to run in the other direction.
Even though I wanted to hide my head in shame for weeks after.
I felt all of those things, and I did it anyway. And I continued to do it for the next 3 years at that job, and for another 10 by my own volition. I won’t lie, public speaking still isn’t my favorite thing in the world to do, but it certainly doesn’t cause anxiety attacks either.
Moral of the story? Be afraid! And do it anyway!
Image credit: Jenny Karlsson Photography